Pharma Payments to Psychiatrists

On March 12 of this year, the Los Angeles Daily News ran an article by Susan Abram titled:  Doctors report big pharma payouts for drug endorsements.  It discusses the financial ties between physicians and drug companies in California.

Here are some quotes:

“In fact, hundreds of physicians, psychiatrists, and medical school faculty members across California are on the payroll of major drug companies, earning tens of thousands of dollars for speaking to other medical professionals at events held by industry leaders that make drugs such as Advair, Cymbalta, Viagra and Zoloft.”

“From 2009 to 2012, California doctors who participated were paid $242 million – the highest in the nation – by major drug companies for research, speaking, consulting, trips and meals, according to a new database released Monday by ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit news organization.”

“The database also shows that about half of the top earners are from a single specialty: psychiatry, according to findings by ProPublica.”

No surprises in any of that.  But this surprised me:

“‘It boggles my mind,’ Dr. James H. Scully Jr., chief executive of the American Psychiatric Association, told a reporter from ProPublica, referring to the big money paid to some psychiatrists for what are billed as educational talks.

“Paid speaking ‘is perfectly legal, and if people want to work for drug companies, this is America,’ said Scully, whose specialty has often been criticized for its over-reliance on medications.’ But everybody needs to be clear – this is marketing.'”

That’s Dr. Scully, the CEO of the APA.  Refreshingly honest.  But will the APA take a position on the conflicts of interest that this kind of marketing inevitably entails?

They haven’t so far.